Zanker Elementary School sixth grader Joanna Lee and Thomas Russell Middle School seventh grader Anita Kwong were among the winning student artists announced May 19 at the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE) annual Young Artist Showcase.
Joanna Lee received the People's Choice Award (6th grade) for her piece, "Connecting through Knowledge," while Anita Kwong received the People's Choice Award (7th grade) for her piece, "Let's Catch Up!"
Each year the Young Artist Showcase features various forms of student expression including paintings, drawings, watercolors, photographs, sculptures, and digital art. This year's artwork theme of “Contact Zones: Places Where We Meet" encourages students to show experiences of places or events where different cultures, languages, or interests may come together.
"The SCCOE is proud to host the Young Artist Showcase every year to provide students with a platform to express their diverse perspectives,” said Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mary Ann Dewan in the SCCOE's press release announcing the winners. “Art education is essential to all aspects of student learning. Events like these provide us with an opportunity to promote the importance of art education and celebrate the continued creativity of our youth in Santa Clara County.”
Student artists from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade submitted artwork that expressed themselves and their experiences based on this theme. All Santa Clara County public/charter schools, public preschool programs, and after-school public programs were eligible to participate. The winners were selected based on various criteria including visual impact, creativity and imagination.
Click to watch the video of all the Young Artist Showcase Winners.
Curtner Elementary School has its new principal for the 2022-23 school year as the Milpitas Unified School District Board of Education unanimously approved the promotion of administrator Kevin Slavin at its May 10 meeting.
Slavin, who has served as the Thomas Russell Middle School Assistant Principal over the last three school years, has a leadership vision that includes building healthy, positive relationships, fostering school community, and being present to interact with MUSD learners, team members and families.
"Thank you to the Curtner community for giving me the opportunity to serve, support and lead their school," said Slavin, whose family grew up in the surrounding neighborhood. "Curtner Elementary School holds a special place in my heart....From celebrating my daughter’s first steps outside on the playground to excitingly trying to catch a glimpse of the nesting eagles, Curtner is a place where families can feel safe and welcome."
Congrats Principal Slavin and Curtner school community!
Milpitas Unified School District was one of only nine districts in Santa Clara County named as a winner of the 2022 California Pivotal Practice (CAPP) Award Program, which highlights school and district practices that supported students during the 2020-21 academic year when distance learning was in effect.
The MUSD EducatEveryWhere online learning initiative was implemented almost immediately following the shift to 100% distance learning in March 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. MUSD EducatEveryWhere, which used a phased-in, hybrid approach, was the culmination of more than 11,050 planning minutes among 62 meetings along with input from 6,000+ survey responses and 2,495 parent Q&A sessions.
“We formed 14 different subcommittees involving hundreds of district and community stakeholders and created a 260-member COVID-19 Advisory Task Force composed of student, parent, staff, and community representatives from elementary, middle, high school, and district operations teams,” recalled MUSD Superintendent Cheryl Jordan. “We are very proud of the work that was done in shaping our distance learning initiative.”
On April 26, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond, announced 727 schools and 121 districts across the state were among the CAPP winners. Those awarded demonstrated efforts to support students in four areas: student engagement, distribution of technology, nutrition services, and students' social-emotional well-being.
"The district and school teams' creative thinking, design, and implementation are inspiring and a testament to their dedication to student success," said County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Mary Ann Dewan. "Their actions, such as providing meals, distributing laptops and hotspots, and creating safe spaces to access mental health resources, supported students during a challenging time."
The CAPP Award Program takes the place of the California Distinguished Schools Program for 2022.
Burnett Elementary School Principal Hanna Asrat, Milpitas High School Assistant Principal Skyler Draeger, Calaveras Hills High School Principal Carl Stice and Assistant Superintendent of Human Relations Jonathon Brunson were selected as 2022 Administrators of the Year by the Region 8 Association of California School Administrators.
Asrat was named the 2022 Elementary Principal of the Year; Draeger was selected as the Secondary Co-Administrator of the Year; Stice was chosen for Continuation/Ed Options Administrator of the Year; and Brunson was honored with the Marcus Foster Memorial Award.
“Congratulations to our administrators who are well-deserving of this exceptional honor,” said MUSD Superintendent Cheryl Jordan. “These leaders have been integral in supporting our MUSD learners, team members and school communities. Particularly as they demonstrated resilience and innovative thinking throughout these last two years.”
On April 29, ACSA Region 8 recognized 18 total Administrators of the Year from eight Santa Clara County school districts and the Santa Clara Office of Education at its Recognition and Awards Celebration. ACSA serves educational leaders in the pursuit of equity and excellence to meet the diverse needs of all California students. ACSA Region 8 is made up of nearly 400 schools and 32 school districts, serving over 260,000 students within Santa Clara County.
"We are so proud of the Santa Clara County administrators recognized at both the regional and state level,” said Dr. Mary Ann Dewan, Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools. “Your outstanding work continues to have a positive impact on the County’s students, families, staff, and community. We are truly grateful for your dedication to student and school success.”
Nearly 150 first, third and fifth grade students explored science through Project-based Learning as part of Milpitas Unified School District’s inaugural April Academy, which was held during Spring Break April 11-15 at Spangler Elementary School.
“All week the students were collaborating, planning, writing, researching, problem solving, and working with each other on a focused science unit,” said April Academy Principal Andrew Dinh.
Goals of the April Academy were to provide student access to rigorous and engaging instructional content; promote collaborative teamwork in researching and designing a product that is accessible to the community; and building self-efficacy in student motivation to be proactive in their learning.
“As a program, it went great,” said Dinh, noting that nearly 90 percent of parent survey respondents said they would return next year. “I can imagine this program growing and expanding.”
The Academy consisted of three first-grade teachers, two third-grade teachers, one fifth-grade teacher, and a specialty teacher who concentrated on Social Emotional Learning (SEL), physical education and art. Students went through a slightly modified school day from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Breakfast and lunch were provided at no cost to families.
First graders explored structures and behaviors of plants and animals, and then designed a nature-inspired solution to a student identified problem. Third graders investigated local species, researched and recorded information, and communicated those findings to a larger group.
“My favorite part was cup-stacking with rubber bands and working as a team,” said Anya, a third-grade student.
Fifth graders explored the most frequently used types of plastic, studied how recyclable they were, and identified what happens to mismanaged plastic.
“What’s great about April Academy is we can all work together on our projects,” said Kimberly, a 5th grader.
“I like how we learned a lot about plastics and we gave a presentation to the class about it,” added Alena, a 5th grader.
At the end of the week, students presented their science projects and discoveries to high school student volunteers, staff and families.
“They presented their findings and how it affects the environment,” Dinh shared. “I was very impressed with the outcomes. They were able to reflect and collaborate with each other.”
As the San Francisco Giants beat writer for MLB.com, Milpitas High School Class of 2010 alumna Maria Guardado has conversed with the likes of Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey.
“I write breaking news, game recaps, features, trend pieces and more on the Giants, providing daily coverage throughout the regular season, offseason and Spring Training,” said the 29-year-old professional journalist.
Guardado’s journey to landing a gig with Major League Baseball started in Milpitas at Weller Elementary School, Thomas Russell Middle School and MHS. Guardado then went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in History from Yale University.
“I feel fortunate to have spent my most formative years in MUSD schools, which not only provided the foundation of my education, but also exposed me to a multicultural environment that valued diversity and placed no limitations on my ambitions,” Guardado said.
Some of her fondest memories were competing on the MHS track and field team, as well as attending science camp in Santa Cruz during elementary school.
“Over the years, my teachers helped me become an avid reader, develop as a writer and stoke my curiosity, skills that have served me well as a professional journalist,” she shared.
One MUSD educator who inspired her the most was AP Spanish teacher Sra. Maria Vargas, “who saw my potential and went out of her way to connect me with people she thought would help me succeed.”
“I’m also indebted to Dena Lindstrom Chavez, who encouraged me to apply to the Princeton University Summer Journalism Program, a 10-day seminar that became my gateway into journalism,” Guardado added.
While she is living out a dream that many Bay Area baseball enthusiasts share, Guardado still treasures her adolescent years at MUSD and directs younger generations to do the same: ”Don’t be in a rush to grow up. You spend most of your life as an adult, but youth is a precious, fleeting experience.”
MHS Theater returns to stage April 7-9 for spring musical ‘Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical’
In December 2021, Milpitas HS theater teacher Kaila Schwartz was approached by two of her senior students who wanted to put on a spring production.
Schwartz was admittedly a bit apprehensive due to the uncertainty of COVID, which had forced the cancellation of the last play, “Peter and the Starcatcher,” just two weeks before it was set to premiere.
“They just said they wanted to do another musical before they graduated,” recalled Schwartz. “I listened to them and their arguments for doing one, and I couldn’t disagree with what they said.”
That very evening, Schwartz applied for the rights to “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical.” She had seen it on Broadway and thought it would be fun to do with her students.
“It’s a celebration of differences and overcoming obstacles and friendship,” said Schwartz, who then surprised her students with the news after her application was accepted. They will have three performances at the MHS Theater: Thursday, April 7 at 7 p.m.; Friday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday, April 9 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here.
There was a catch, however, with this particular musical there is no online streaming allowed so it would be solely an in-person performance. With COVID lingering in our midst and wanting her students to perform without masks, Schwartz then met with colleague Jenn Hutchison and came up with a safety plan. All students involved in any facet of the production are tested weekly.
“We are the most ‘negative’ crew around, and we love it,” said Schwartz of the COVID testing results. “It’s been a joy working with the kids. Everyone is so excited about doing the show. They are all very supportive of one another. For some, this is their first time in a play.”
Nearly three dozen students are involved in the production as cast members, stage managers, tech crew members, and a five-person band. After the open auditions in January 2022, 17-year-old junior Noah Leabres was selected for the lead role of Percy Jackson.
“It’s so awesome and scary at the same time. It’s overwhelming but in a good way,” said Leabres, a first-time performer who also helped with building the set and even sewing shoes for the costumes. “Rehearsals have been great. The casting choices were perfect. Everyone fits their role really well.”
As part of the rehearsals, Schwartz brought in a professional sword fighter to work with the actors.
Junior Iris Chung, 16, who was disappointed after not being able to perform in Peter and the Starcatcher, is playing a variety of smaller roles for this production and is an understudy for Annabeth Chase.
“I’m so excited. …Everyone is like family. They are so nice and so funny,” said Chung, who re-read all of the Percy Jackson books after learning the news. “Ms. Schwartz is a wonderful teacher and director. It has been so much fun.”
Name: Nicole Steward
Title: School-Linked Services Coordinator/Social Worker
Years with MUSD: 6
Educational Background: BA in Communications from University of Toledo (Ohio) and MSW in Child Welfare/Administration from the University of Connecticut (UCONN) School of Social Work. I also hold certifications in international restorative justice practices, trauma-informed yoga, and trauma-sensitive sound healing.
Why did you decide to become a School-Linked Services Coordinator/Social Worker? What inspired you to take on this career path? I was a CASA and a foster parent for 5 teens in Santa Clara County between 2008-2018 and I've seen how challenging school can be when a student is experiencing trauma, homelessness, or moving often due to placement changes. I've had to advocate for my kids in IEPs and with discipline matters and noticed that schools have a lot of power to make things easier for students if they have a caring adult who understands their needs, but often the needs of foster youth or those experiencing homelessness are left to fall through the cracks. When I had the opportunity to become a social worker in schools and advocate on a broader level for ALL students, I jumped at the chance. This work changes lives and I'm proud to be a social worker.
What does a SLS Coordinator do for a school district and what are the most rewarding parts of your job? My job is to find any barrier to a students' education (housing, food, medical, immigration, mental health, etc) and find resources in the city, county, state or federal resources that can remove those barriers so students can focus on their education. The most rewarding part is letting a struggling family know there is support...the responses vary from crying to screaming for joy and I celebrate right alongside them.
What does Women's History Month mean for you, especially with the 2022 theme of Providing Healing, Providing Hope? Women hold a lot. We are often caregivers in our work and in our daily lives. Our families depend on us and we are often required to do more in the workplace for the same esteem that others may automatically receive. So to me, the 2022 theme of Providing Healing, Providing Hope is a reminder that we must engage in self-care and make ourselves a priority before we serve others. It seems counterintuitive sometimes, but the more we prioritize care for ourselves, the better we are able to care for others (or say NO if it's too much). I'm a big believer in Radical Self-Care...embedding healing practices into our daily lives to help buffer the stress of our work. That is how we heal and how we move forward with hope.
Any words of wisdom for MUSD students looking into SLS or a profession helping others. Know WHY you want to help and be sure your intentions to help are pure. What I mean is, this work of helping is not always met with thanks or appreciation, so you have to have the passion for it regardless of what you might (or might not) get in return. I've helped some folks with rent relief, food support, and clothing only for them to turn around and tell me I'm not doing enough to help them. I don't take it personally because I understand the situation they are in and the lack of control they feel. But you have to go into helping work without expectations of appreciation or acknowledgement. It may never come, so the reward has to be internal and intrinsic to the work.
Anything else you'd like to add or tell us about yourself? In an effort to support my own self-care over the past 10 years, I have become certified in trauma-informed yoga and sound healing. These practices, along with meditation, mindfulness, forest bathing, and other nature-focused practices, have been central to my ability to work 40+ hours a week with families experiencing challenges. This work is heartbreaking but I remind myself that I can care without carrying the weight of the work. These practices keep me grounded, centered, and present for my work...work I love and look forward to doing for a long time.
First graders in Mrs. Terri Lawrence and Ms. Lynn Tran’s classes are bubbling over with excitement as they learn the next book selection for the March Book Madness Tournament.
This day’s choice, “Bravo Anjali!,” written by Sheetal Sheth, follows a talented young female musician who encounters jealousy among her peers. Her journey sends an important message about making way for one another’s light to brighten the world for all.
“I like books and I like to read,” said 7-year-old Troy Maxwell. “That’s why I like March Book Madness.”
“Bravo Anjali!” has already won over classmate Shivya Nayak: “It’s so full of feelings,” she said.
The next day, students will hear the story, “The Three Little Tamales,” written by Erik Kimmel, and then the entire first grade votes on which book advances to the next round of the March Book Madness bracket.
The winning book will be read again and match-up against another winning selection, just like the NCAA College Basketball March Madness Tournament, until there is one first-grade book champion.
“I’m a North Carolina Tar Heels fan,” said Mrs. Lawrence, who came across the idea of replacing basketball teams with children’s books on social media and introduced it to her first-grade colleagues. “We started by reading two books on the same day. Now we read one book because the students are making deeper connections, not just surface ones.”
“This is a fun way to hit all the first-grade reading standards and develop a love of reading amongst our students,” added Ms. Tran. “There is such a diversity in the books and they can like them for different reasons. This has really helped open up their personal library.”
Starting with a “Sweet 16” of books to the “Elite 8,” “Final 4,” and culminating in the “National Championship,” students learn story elements and lessons such as how to compare and contrast, and make connections to themselves, each other and their community. In addition, they learn about the democratic process and voting.
“It teaches many important lessons in your life and also how to make different connections,” said first grader Mujtaba Arain, 7, whose favorite book was “Mae Among the Stars,” written by Roda Ahmed. “She followed her dream and became an astronaut.”
Her classmate, Tanvi Chinnan, 7, favored “Bravo Anjali!” overall because: “It told me that if someone is being mean, don’t get it in your heart.”
Naomi Krishna, 6, said that the March Book Madness format has helped her enjoy reading even more. Her book of choice so far has been “Diary of a Worm,” written by Doreen Cronin. “I enjoy the stories,” she said.
Next year, the first-grade teachers are planning for more March Book Madness with a different set of 16 books for the children to explore.
“It’s working,” Mrs. Lawrence said. “The kids are so excited each day.”
Ms. Tran added: “Next year, we want to inject even more student cultures in the book selections.” Our teachers are working to assure that we are meeting MUSD Strategic Goal #1 -- build a culture of we by infusing students’ reading experience with characters and stories that represent themselves.
Help send the State Champion Milpitas Xtreme Robotics to the 2022 VEX Robotics World Championship in Dallas, Texas. Donations will go towards equipment, fees, and travel costs.
Click here to donate today!
Over the weekend, the Milpitas Xtreme Robotics Team 1669X represented Milpitas High School at the 2022 Northern California VRC High School State Championship in Redding and won the state championship in 3 categories: 1. Tournament Champion; 2. Robot Skills Champion; and 3. Excellence Award.
Prior to this event, the team of Eugene Ng, Kathan Sheth, Chenghao Li and Eusern Ng won multiple regional tournaments to qualify for the state championship. With the latest victory, they officially advance to the VEX Robotics World Championship in Dallas, Texas in May.
According to Eugene, this is the team's fourth VEX competition season, and the third consecutive year they have qualified for the state and world championships. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this is the very first year we are able to compete at the state and world level in-person.
"We appreciate the MHS and MUSD community for your continuous support and encouragement," Eugene said. "We look forward to representing Milpitas High School and competing against the world's best robotics teams."